Lenten Reflections 2017: First Week of Lent

February 27, 2017

By: Elizabeth Hughes, Director of International Program, Jesuit Volunteer Corps

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The word “tender” isn’t always one that comes to mind for me during Lent.  However, I love the image in this Sunday’s first reading in which God forms God’s creature out of the clay of the earth and breathes the breath of life to nourish the beloved creature.  The closeness and tenderness of this image reflect the relationship that, I believe, God desires to have with each of us.  This Lent, I sense I am called to deepen my friendship with God by first remembering God’s tender love for me.  

It is because of this tender love that I can then allow God to lead me into a reflection on my own sinfulness, just as the Spirit led Jesus into the desert.  In what ways has my relationship with God and with others been fractured?  How have I been indifferent to my neighbor?  How do my unacknowledged hungers contribute to societal injustices?  I believe that these questions — and so many others — are invitations to recognize both my vulnerability and my dependence on God’s grace and mercy.  Such a dependence can be all too easy to forget in the day-to-day privilege of my life.  Such a dependence fosters a deeper intimacy with God.  In my role with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, I’ve had the honor of visiting communities across the globe who have beautifully modeled such an intimacy with and dependence on God.  

Finally, these readings — like God — are overflowing with mercy.  Made of the earth’s fragile clay, I know that I depend on mercy again and again.  As Vinita Hampton Wright beautifully writes, “Each step and stop and stumble leads right into the open arms of God.”  Each step and stop and stumble is also an invitation for me to likewise share mercy and compassion with others, whether I am in direct relationship with someone or whether I am called to mercy on a national or global scale, striving bit by bit for a more just and hopeful world.  

As we journey into Lent, this Sunday’s readings call me all the more deeply into this liturgical season through this 3-part invitation: a reminder of God’s tender love; a challenge to recognize the individual and societal sins to which I contribute; and the grace of God’s mercy.